December 5, 2008

Carroll has options for new OC

In the depths of despair, a ray of light can appear.

Maybe it's not the most profound sentiment, but that's the approach the USC football family should take in its offensive coordinator search.

Sure, the timing of Steve Sarkisian's imminent departure to Washington casts a bit of a dark cloud over the team heading in to its most important game of the season - a meeting with UCLA Saturday with the Pac-10 championship in the Trojans' reach.

However, this is a team built to handle distractions. They heard all the Notre Dame talk. They listened to media ask about letdowns after losing to Oregon State. They've talked about transfers and play calling and Reggie Bush and so on.

So, this latest hurdle shouldn't be too tough to clear, and USC might even come out of this stronger.

People have openly critical about the "lack of offensive identity," and USC and Pete Carroll now have a chance to redefine themselves offensively.

USC could shock the collegiate football world by bringing in someone like Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, and completely shift gears of the Trojan offense by bringing in a spread offense full of zone reads and inventive use of playmakers - think Joe McKnight in a Percy Harvin-esque role.

Maybe the Trojans want to become more of a power running team, with a heavy reliance on play-action passes. This would benefit USC's uber-talented running backs and would give more touches to Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable and Allen Bradford. With defenses adequately softened up, Mark Sanchez and Mitch Mustain could pick apart a secondary drawn up in run coverage.

USC could elect to go with an established name that Carroll already trusts. Certainly, USC's head man would have a pretty good idea what the offense would be like if the Trojans brought in one of Carroll's NFL cronies to run a pro-style offense.

Carroll would certainly be comfortable with a coach like Carl Smith, who he worked with during his tenure at New England. He also could promote John Morton from within.

Safe might not be the best choice for the Trojans' immediate future, though. With USC losing so much on defense, USC might not be best served to be content to control the ball and count on a group on inexperienced defenders to carry the load.

USC could bring in a top coordinator like Bryan Harsin. Harsin has the inventive pedigree from Boise State head coach Chris Peterson, but he has led balanced offenses.

The Trojans' strength next year will be Mark Sanchez, Damian Williams, Ronald Johnson and the rest of the skilled offensive players.

Dana Holgorsen starred as the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech, where he helped the Red Raiders average over 500 yards a game in 2007, and this season, he had Houston averaging 575.1 yards per game in his first season as the Cougars' offensive coordinator.

Carroll and the Trojans are faced with a decision. In their hands, they hold the future of their offense. Whichever way they decide to go, USC will have a new driving force.

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